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Fatty Facts: Why are good fats so important for kids?

Nutrition & Food / Nov 08, 2022 / Vetted by Paramjeet Kaur
Why are good fats integral for a baby's health?

Kids require a good intake of carbohydrates and fats for energy. The term “fat” often sounds unhealthy, and we think we should avoid it in our kids' diet. But healthy fats are an integral part of your child’s daily diet.  

The importance of fats in children's diet

Fats are not the enemy; they are one of the building blocks of the body. Excessive fats can lead to weight gain and obesity, but including the right amount of fat has many health benefits. Here’s why good fats are an important dietary requirement for your little one:
  • Fats are an essential energy source.
  • They are one of the core nutrients required for a child’s rapid growth and development.
  • Fats provide a rich texture and flavour to the foods, thus improving the taste and acceptability.
  • Omega-3 fats are essential for the normal development of the brain and the production of hormones.
  • Fats help in absorbing fat-soluble vitamins—A, D, E, and K. 
  • They are essential for keeping skin and hair healthy.
  • They act as an insulator to keep the body warm.
  • Linoleic and linolenic fatty acids obtained from dietary fats are required for brain development, inflammation control, and blood clotting.

Types of fats 

Dietary fats are categorized into three types:

 

1. Unsaturated fats

They are present in fish and plant foods and are considered to be healthy fats. There are three types of unsaturated fats:
  • Monounsaturated fats (e.g., avocados, groundnuts, olive, and canola oil). 
  • Polyunsaturated fats (e.g., corn, sunflower, safflower, and soy oil).
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., salmon and tuna). 

2. Saturated fats

They are present in meat and dairy products like cheese, butter, and whole milk. Coconut oil also contains saturated fats but is popular due to its health benefits. Too much consumption of saturated fats can raise “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood.

 

3. Trans fats

They are present in commercial snacks, fried foods, and baked goods. Trans fats are the least healthy fats. 

Foods, in general, contain two types of fat: visible and invisible fats (hidden fats). Visible fats (e.g., salad oils, cooking oils, butter, and ghee) are easy to monitor. Invisible fats are present in most plant and animal foods, but they are hidden, making it difficult to monitor their intake. 

How to ensure your child gets adequate fats through foods

Infants younger than one-year-old should not have their fat intake limited. However, the quality of fat, rather than the quantity, is essential for children’s good health. Kids between one and three years old should obtain nearly 30–40% of their daily calories from fat. Invisible fats constitute 10-15% of the fat in an Indian diet; therefore, children’s visible fat intake should be lower than 20%.
  • Introduce eggs, chicken, and fish at around nine months of age.
  • To ensure that your child has an adequate energy intake, you can add a teaspoon of ghee or oil to every feed.
  • Limit foods high in saturated and trans fats, for example, processed foods.
  • Avoid the consumption of junk foods. Such foods are low in nutrients and contain food additives. Junk foods can easily attract kids, leading to the development of poor eating habits. Junk food may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart problems. Try to make some changes frequently in your kid’s food menu so that they do not get bored of eating home-cooked food.  Read the nutrition labels to understand the type and amount of fats present in the foods you buy.
  • Serve a combination of carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, and vegetables), proteins (eggs, pulses, dairy products, fish, and nuts), and fats (oil or ghee) to provide a balanced diet. 
  • Introduce nuts such as walnut and almonds and seeds such as sesame and soya bean in your kid’s diet from six months of age. Apart from healthy fats, they also contain vitamins, nutrients, proteins, fibre, and antioxidants. Include raw or dry-toasted, unsalted, and unsweetened nuts and seeds. To prevent the risk of choking, make them into a paste or grind them. Also, ensure that your kid does not have nut allergies. 

If you want your kid to adopt healthy eating habits, the best way to start is by setting a good example. Consult your child’s nutritionist to learn more about foods and plan a healthy diet. 

Looking for nutritious recipes for your little one? Head to BabyG App to get complete access to 1000+ Development Activities, Milestones and Growth Reports, Meal Plans, Recipes, Bedtime Stories, Tips and a Global Community of like-minded parents.

Looking for healthy and filling recipes for your little one? Head to BabyG App to get complete access to 1000+ Development Activities, Milestones and Growth Reports, Meal Plans, Recipes, Bedtime Stories, Tips and a global Community of likeminded parents.

 

References

  1. Kids Health from Nemours. Fats.
  2. Medline Plus. Dietary fats explained.
  3. Harvard. Omega-3 fatty acids: An essential contribution.
  4. National Institute of Nutrition ICMR. Dietary guidelines for Indians - A manual.
  5. Medline Plus. Dietary fat and children.
  6. Nutrition Australia. Nuts, health and kids.

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